Because studio execs are still strangely demanding that directors include human beings in their films, Stealth provides us three Navy test pilots who were chosen to fly the top-secret, experimental Talon planes. Played by Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and Josh Lucas, they're sort of a holy trinity of hotness, flying their sleek craft in perfect formation, and eager for whatever life-threatening emergency gets tossed their way. Unfortunately, they've just been saddled with a fourth wingman: an unmanned plane named EDI, for Extreme Deep Invader, which sounds like something purchased by seedy men in certain disreputable shops on the dark fringes of the San Fernando Valley. The three are none too happy with having EDI along on the secret mission they're given early in the film: Take out a Rangoon high-rise that's empty save for a number of high-level terrorists. And they're resentful not just because EDI talks like HAL's drugged younger brother, but because they're worried about getting replaced by machines, which is just what their commander officer (Sam Shepard) wants to happen - with a little help from a shadowy buddy of his in D.C.
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Van Helsing ends up as a high-concept adrenaline rush that never stops generating lesser concepts over its elongated 145-minute run time. Wheels start turning when Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) funds the creation of the Frankenstein monster (Shuler Hensley) to power a machine that will allow the vampire's offspring to live. The prince of darkness is trying to please his voracious brides, while the final descendent of a line of Transylvanian vampire hunters (Kate Beckinsale) is trying in vain to stake the brute before he ends her life. The wild card in this mix is Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), a hired gun with a guilty conscience working for the Catholic Church to vanquish various evil beings.
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Amid the music-video dogfight sequences (including a trulyspectacular slow-motion crash and a scary pilot-eject at 35,000 feet) andgratuitous shots of requisite hottie Jessica Biel in a bikini, screenwriterW.D. Richter ("Big Trouble in Little China") slips in undercurrentsabout the dangers of win-at-all-costs counter-terrorism and a solid search-and-rescuethird act that has little to do with the crazy runaway plane.
Biel ("Blade:Trinity"), Josh Lucas ("SweetHome Alabama") and Jamie Foxx (contractedto a supporting role before "Ray"put him on Hollywood's A-list) play hot-dogging Navy pilots who make upan elite emergency strike force in ultra-high-tech jets that fly in toblow up terrorists and stolen nuclear warheads on a moment's notice. Thespecifics of these incidents are often off-the-charts ridiculous, and theyget even more so after the team is forced to accept the computerized planeinto their ranks as an experiment. When a lightning strike turns its circuitsinto B-movie bunk ("EDI is war plane. EDI must have targets,"it declares in a menacing monotone), the fight is on to bring the thingdown.
So far, so bad. But as the plot unfurls, there's almostalways something extra in its folds. Director Rob Cohen sets the stagewith satellite shots showing worldwide locations, then zooms in and inand in to catch up with realistic (albeit CGI-generated) canyon-chargingflight sequences jazzed up further with creative editing. He hires greatactors like Sam Shepard and Joe Morton for supporting roles as the pilots'clashing commanders, one of whom knew the dangers of the rogue plane andlet it fly anyway.
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Writer-director Baz Luhrmann wastes no time getting to the flamboyant and cinematic razzle-dazzle of "Moulin Rouge," a spectacular near-opera that breathes 21st Century life into the movie musical by invoking the wildest cultural spirits from the dawn of the 20th Century.
In the film's opening sequence Luhrmann pushes into the frame of a scratchy, grainy silent film image of Paris, circa 1900. We're swept over sepia-toned rooftops and down into the deteriorated hotel room of the broken-hearted hero, a once-idealistic young writer named Christian (Ewan McGregor) who sits at a typewriter about to pour out the tale of his doomed love for a beautiful courtesan who had been the star of the floor show at the infamous Moulin Rouge cabaret.
When Christian's flashback to happier days begins, Luhrmann reverses out of this antiquey image of Paris until he reaches the same starting vantage point. Suddenly bright, rich color bleeds into the frame and the camera zooms forward once again, into a now effervescent, vital and fantastical City of Lights in all its bohemian splendor.
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Adapted from a comic book chock full of literary allusions but summer-movie-ized for the Cliff's Notes set, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is predictably packed with flash and completely devoid of life.
A turn-of-the-20th-century action flick that tries to evoke an antediluvian "Batman"-ish atmosphere with dark, overzealous production design, this convoluted dud stars Sean Connery as famous fictional British explorer-adventurer Allan Quartermain, who is persuaded to recruit a cadre of period legends to help bring down a terrorist organization bent on starting a world war.
The team consists of Jules Verne's submariner Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), H.G. Wells' Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng), "Dracula" vampiress Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), Oscar Wilde's portrait-dependent immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) and a yee-haw Secret Service agent named Tom Sawyer (Shane West) -- yes, that Tom Sawyer -- who was shoe-horned into the script to Americanize the story for U.S. audiences.
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The epitome of everything that's wrong with $150 million B-movies, "Van Helsing" is an inane, soulless, 19th century vampire-hunting action flick of computer-F/X overkill and ham-fisted actors chewing on stale catch-phrase dialogue (when dialogue is even allowed) as if it's a mouthful of bubblegum with the flavor long gone.
Despite being inspired (if you can even call it that) by a character in "Dracula" and lifting a slew of monsters from other classic horror tales too, the picture has little story to speak of -- just a few minutes about Bram Stoker's bloodsucking Count using the electrifying re-animation technique of Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein to zap life into thousands of his gestating offspring that hang in slimy pods all over his castle lair.
So since writer-director Stephen Sommers (who clearly blew all his talent on "The Mummy" -- as anyone who's seen "The Mummy Returns" can attest) couldn't be bothered with anything more than Cliffs-Notes plot and character development, I'm going to respond in kind -- not bothering with a structured review and instead simply listing examples of the twaddle and tripe that pass for script and storytelling in this laughable example of Hollywood's numbing, style-without-substance approach to summer movies.
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